Report: No open-meeting violations in Capistrano school district
A report released Tuesday by the Orange County district attorney's office has concluded that the Capistrano Unified School District did not violate state open-meeting laws.
The district attorney's office had received complaints, including one from an attorney for two district board members alleging violations of the Brown Act, which governs open meeting and agenda requirements for public agencies.
The alleged violations occurred at three meetings between Dec. 13, 2010, and March 16, 2011, the report said.
An initial inquiry by the district attorney's office resulted in notice to the district that violations had occurred. But the district attorney's office said it had "modified" the findings of that inquiry as a result of additional information that was obtained after a request by the school district to reopen the matter.
"Although an appearance of violations of the Brown Act occurred," the 26-page report concluded, "the evidence developed has not been sufficient to establish their actual occurrence."
In a statement, the district lauded the report's conclusion.
“We are pleased that the district attorney listened to our concerns and reopened the investigation,” Supt. Joe Farley said. “The education of this community’s children continues to be the top priority for both staff and elected members of this organization."
The report said investigators did uncover what was described as a "seemingly toxic atmosphere" among some district officials. "Evidence revealed examples of condescension or disdain for other board members or dissenting members of the public," the report said.
The complaints surfaced after three new members were elected to the board during a contested recall election in November 2010, the report said.
The new members were provided no formal training regarding the Brown Act and were given a booklet on the state's open-record laws. "Simply providing a booklet upon assuming their office is not sufficient," the report found.
— Robert J. Lopez
Image shows the cover of the investigation report. Credit: Orange County district attorney's office.